Inbound and Outbound Customer Service – What Is the Difference?
Let us first take a moment to define what inbound and outbound customer service are before we start to look at what constitutes them and the differences between them.
Inbound customer service is pretty straightforward.
Whenever your existing customers or prospects try to reach you for their needs through any defined customer service channels, it forms a part of inbound customer service.
We will discuss what happens in inbound customer service as a part of this article.
Traditionally, there is no such thing called outbound customer service.
However, over time organizations started looking at proactive customer service. This forms part of outbound customer service.
We will discuss the details of outbound customer service as a part of this article.
Inbound Customer Service
Let us look at the channels of inbound customer service before talking about examples.
An important part of customer service is giving your customers an easy way to reach you to resolve any issues and challenges in using your offerings.
Let us assume you provide multiple ways for your customers to reach you – phone, email, chat, website, bots, mobile apps, messaging apps, and social channels.
The moment you provide so many channels, you will have to man all of these channels so that you can address the needs of your customers who try to reach you through these channels.
All of these channels help provide inbound customer service.
It is not easy to operate so many channels together. So, most organizations look at their customer demography and determine their preferred channels. They provide those channels that are frequently used by their target audience.
You don’t need to be present on all the channels. You can be present on what works for you, but ensure that you provide the best possible customer experience on that channel.
For example, CDBaby is available only on calls, but they pick up calls within the first three rings. So, every customer is assured of someone answering the phone.
The most preferred way by which Amazon responds to its customers is through its call-back option. It always works, and that assures customers.
In today’s world, you don’t have to man all of the channels separately. Instead, you can have an integrated platform where every agent can access all the channels and customer interactions from a single interface.
This would allow you to address every customer request.
Examples of Inbound Customer Service
Inbound customer service begins when the customer contacts the company through any available channels.
From there, a representative will assist the customer – answering a question or resolving an issue or challenge the customer is facing.
Inbound customer service focuses on assisting the customer and not selling a product or service to the customer. You cannot discount such recommendations, but that is not the focus.
Some Examples of Inbound Customer Service Include:
- Helping a customer with details on their account balance, card delivery and activation status, last ten transactions on the card, credit scores, and status of service requests
- Assisting a customer with their bill payment online
- Assist customers with using a product they purchased from you—taking them through step-by-step instructions and troubleshooting
- Helping a customer configure the product they bought from you and making sure they can use it for the benefit of their business
- Helping a customer with their product returns
- Assisting a customer who received a defective product
- Answering a customer on how to install or upgrade the software
- Helping a customer choose an annual maintenance plan based on their business needs
- Assisting a customer in changing their mobile plans and activating international roaming facilities for a short period
- Helping a customer with their insurance claims
- Coordinating with a customer in setting up an appointment for a doctor’s visit
- Helping a customer with their airline or hotel booking and upgrades
- Recommending the right product for customers after they call in to ask for advice
You can also check our article on: How to Identify Customer Pain Points?
Outbound Customer Service
Let us look at the outbound channels that organizations use.
They are pretty much the same as your inbound channels. When it comes to sales and promotions, the channels can take different avatars like predictive, auto, progressive, preview, and auto-dialers. That won’t be the case for customer service.
Customer service has become very innovative in the last few years, and they have proactively started providing customer service using outbound channels.
Outbound Customer Service Use Cases
Your outbound customer service sends out reminders for service renewal – be it a software license, subscription, insurance renewal, AMC renewal, and the like.
You would typically get emails, text messages, and calls reminding you of this.
Upselling and Cross-Selling
Let us assume that you have a customer who has taken a housing loan from your bank. He has been paying the EMIs promptly for the past eight years. He only has two more years to close the loan.
You know that the house is eight years old and may need remodeling, refurbishing, and refurnishing. So, you send promotions asking if the customer would be interested in a top-up loan on the property. You just send a few emails and text messages and follow up with a call.
Besides, you can send out promotions and offers to your existing customers on vehicle loans, personal loans, education loans, and pre-approved credit products. These can be genuinely promoted as something that might really help your existing customers.
You are not being intrusive here.
I keep getting such offers from my telecom service providers as well. For instance, initially, I had a landline and broadband connectivity from my provider. Based on my history, they sent me an offer for a mobile connection, to which I subscribed. Then, they sent me an offer for subscribing to their television subscription, which I took up.
Now, all these are bundled together as one bill, which makes it easier for me to manage and service.
What is the best way to offer proactive customer service?
It is to understand what your customers think of your service.
How do you get to understand?
You can send feedback surveys via email, text link, or voice message.
Your customers fill them up, and you understand where you stand on your customer service.
This would allow you to tweak and improve your customer service offering.
Once you get these scores, you follow through with your customers over a call as to why they filled up the way they filled it up. This conversation would allow you to understand their feedback better and work on them.
We work with a hospital that gets appointment requests from multiple channels – mobile app, website, and phone calls.
Often, people did not show up for the appointments, resulting in a large percentage of no-shows.
We ensured that the patients and the hospital benefitted from our voice broadcasting offering.
We sent automated voice messages to all the patients, with the option for them to confirm, reschedule, or cancel their appointments. This reduced the no-shows to almost zero, besides helping the patients reschedule without having to go through the appointment scheduling process.
What is the Difference Between Inbound and Outbound Customer Service?
Let us take a moment to understand the differences between inbound and outbound customer service.
|Customer service||Reactive and responsive||Proactive and preventive|
|Channels||Phone, email, chat, bot, website, mobile apps, messaging, and social||Phone, email, chat, bot, website, mobile, apps, messaging, and social|
|Revenue||Prevents revenue loss and retains customers||Revenue gain and retains customers|
|Use cases||Customer support, issues, and challenges||Reminders, promotions, and feedback|
To sum up, outbound customer service is primarily proactive, while inbound customer service is reactive.
It doesn’t matter whether you use the outbound or the inbound channel; you will succeed if you keep customers at the center of your business.
Both these channels make it easy for you to serve the customers.